Florida is one of the few states that has not legalized recreational marijuana use, but that could change this year. Governor Ron DeSantis said that a marijuana legalization initiative will be on the ballot in November, despite the opposition from the attorney general and other groups.
Marijuana Legalization Initiative Gains Momentum
The initiative, sponsored by Smart and Safe Florida, a campaign backed by Trulieve, one of the largest medical marijuana providers in the state, has collected more than 967,000 valid signatures, surpassing the required threshold of 891,523. The initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess, use, process, display, purchase, and transport up to 3 ounces of marijuana and up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrates. It would also allow adults to cultivate up to 9 live marijuana plants per household, with a maximum of 18 plants.
The initiative would not affect the existing medical marijuana program, which was approved by 71% of voters in 2016. It would also not change the laws regarding driving under the influence, smoking in public places, or workplace drug testing. The initiative would require the state legislature to enact laws to regulate the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products, and to impose taxes and fees on them.
The initiative would also prohibit the legislature from limiting the THC content of marijuana and marijuana products, a controversial issue that has been debated in recent years. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high.
Attorney General Challenges the Initiative
The initiative is not without opposition, however. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, asking the justices to block the initiative from the ballot. She argues that the initiative is misleading and confusing to voters, and that it would create a monopoly for the existing medical marijuana providers.
Moody claims that the initiative does not clearly state that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and that it would conflict with the state constitution, which requires that ballot initiatives deal with a single subject. She also says that the initiative would grant an unfair advantage to the medical marijuana providers, who would be the only ones allowed to produce and sell recreational marijuana until the legislature creates a regulatory framework.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case in November, and is expected to issue a ruling by April 1. The justices seemed skeptical of Moody’s arguments, with some questioning the relevance of federal law and the clarity of the initiative’s language. If the court approves the initiative, it will appear on the ballot in November, where it will need 60% of the vote to pass.
Governor Expects Voters to Decide
Governor DeSantis, who is not a supporter of recreational marijuana, said that he expects the initiative to be on the ballot, and that he respects the will of the voters. He said that he thinks the Supreme Court will approve the initiative, and that he will not interfere with the process.
DeSantis said that he is concerned about the potential impact of marijuana legalization on public health and safety, especially for young people. He said that he prefers a more cautious approach, and that he supports the state’s medical marijuana program, which he expanded after taking office in 2019.
DeSantis said that he will abide by the outcome of the vote, whatever it may be. He said that he hopes that the voters will make an informed decision, and that he will work with the legislature to implement the law if the initiative passes.
Florida Joins the National Trend
Florida is one of the largest and most influential states in the country, and its decision on marijuana legalization could have a significant impact on the national trend. Currently, 24 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Guam, have legalized recreational marijuana use, while 13 others have decriminalized it or have medical marijuana programs. Only four states, South Carolina, Kansas, Wyoming, and Idaho, maintain a fully illegal stance on marijuana.
Marijuana legalization has been gaining popularity across the country, as more people see it as a way to generate tax revenue, create jobs, reduce criminal justice costs, and respect personal freedom. In the 2020 elections, five states, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi, approved marijuana legalization measures, while Oregon became the first state to decriminalize all drugs.
Florida, with its large and diverse population, could be a tipping point for the marijuana legalization movement, if it votes in favor of the initiative. According to a recent poll by the University of North Florida, 59% of Florida voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, while 31% oppose it and 10% are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Florida could also influence other states in the region, such as Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, which have not legalized marijuana in any form. Florida could also set an example for other states that have medical marijuana programs, but have not yet legalized recreational use, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Florida’s marijuana legalization initiative is one of the most important and controversial issues on the ballot this year, and it could have far-reaching consequences for the state and the nation. The voters will have the final say on whether Florida will join the growing number of states that have embraced the green wave.